»Less is a bore.«

Robert Venturi

Blog Review

Tokyo: Tiny Archetypes

An exhibition on essential architecture

  • The curator of the exhibition “Come on-a My Hut!”, architect Yoshifumi Nakamura, standing at dusk in the doorway of one of his projects, Luna Hut in Hyogo, built in 2012. (Photo: Hideya Amemiya) 1 / 12  The curator of the exhibition “Come on-a My Hut!”, architect Yoshifumi Nakamura, standing at dusk in the doorway of one of his projects, Luna Hut in Hyogo, built in 2012. (Photo: Hideya Amemiya)
  • Installation view, showing the series of display huts in the gallery, each focusing on a famous or inspirational hut, including those of Le Corbusier, Heidegger and the poet-sculptor Kotaro Takamura. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.) 2 / 12  Installation view, showing the series of display huts in the gallery, each focusing on a famous or inspirational hut, including those of Le Corbusier, Heidegger and the poet-sculptor Kotaro Takamura. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)
  • The display hut focused on Henry David Thoreau's celebrated cabin at Walden Pond, where he retreated to live the simple life. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.) 3 / 12  The display hut focused on Henry David Thoreau's celebrated cabin at Walden Pond, where he retreated to live the simple life. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)
  • In the upstairs gallery, a structure sheathed in mosquito netting displays the design and construction drawings of Yoshifumi Nakamura's Hanem Hut, the one full-sized example in the exhibition. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)&a 4 / 12  In the upstairs gallery, a structure sheathed in mosquito netting displays the design and construction drawings of Yoshifumi Nakamura's Hanem Hut, the one full-sized example in the exhibition. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)&a
  • Included in the display is a video detailing the story of the construction of the Hanem Hut, sited on the roof-top courtyard of the gallery. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.) 5 / 12  Included in the display is a video detailing the story of the construction of the Hanem Hut, sited on the roof-top courtyard of the gallery. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)
  • The roof-top Shinto ground-breaking ceremony of the Hanem Hut on March 30, 2013. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa) 6 / 12  The roof-top Shinto ground-breaking ceremony of the Hanem Hut on March 30, 2013. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa)
  • A carpenter finishes off the roof of Hanem Hut, which was constructed over three days. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa) 7 / 12  A carpenter finishes off the roof of Hanem Hut, which was constructed over three days. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa)
  • The structure and interior of Hanem Hut taking shape. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa) 8 / 12  The structure and interior of Hanem Hut taking shape. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa)
  • The construction team of the Hanem Hut, pose with their completed handiwork on April 2, 2013. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa) 9 / 12  The construction team of the Hanem Hut, pose with their completed handiwork on April 2, 2013. (Photo: The Story Production: Fukashi Setoyama, Yosuke Nakagawa)
  • A close up showing the sensuality of material and subtlety of detail and texture of the Hanem Hut. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.) 10 / 12  A close up showing the sensuality of material and subtlety of detail and texture of the Hanem Hut. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)
  •  A kettle ready for coffee or tea on the bespoke stove, part of the exquisitely detailed and fully kitted-out interior. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.) 11 / 12   A kettle ready for coffee or tea on the bespoke stove, part of the exquisitely detailed and fully kitted-out interior. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)
  • Yoshifumi Nakamura's Hanem Hut at dusk, its door ajar, its simple form and the glow from inside, an invitation to dwell, underlying the poetic and pragmatic spirit that infuses the whole exhibition. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)& 12 / 12  Yoshifumi Nakamura's Hanem Hut at dusk, its door ajar, its simple form and the glow from inside, an invitation to dwell, underlying the poetic and pragmatic spirit that infuses the whole exhibition. (Photo: Nacása & Partners Inc.)&

In Tokyo, architect Yoshifumi Nakamura displays his favorite huts. What for? Jef Smith dwells on the essentials of an exhibition on essential dwellings...

Since its inception in 1985, the TOTO Gallery・MA in Tokyo has gained a reputation for holding some of that city’s best modern and contemporary architecture exhibitions. The ambitious level of the gallery’s programming is maintained with its current show, “Come on-a My Hut!”, which attempts to explore some fundamental questions of dwelling through consideration of the “hut” as archetype of the house.

Set out in three parts, this exhibition occupies the entire gallery and it’s courtyard spaces. Upon entering, the visitor is presented with a display of seven small dwellings from across the world, including Le Corbusier’s Cabanon at Cap-Martin, Heidegger’s mountain hut at Todtnauberg, and Thoreau’s Walden Pond, alongside examples from Japan – including the solo yachtsman Kenichi Horie’s boat, The Mermaid. Of less design interest, at least perhaps to British eyes, is George Bernard Shaw’s writing space in the garden of his Hertfordshire home – not really much more than a garden shed.

There is also one hut at full-scale: Hanem Hut, built in the open courtyard space by the curator of the show, Yoshifumi Nakamura, an architect whose own practice has been inspired by the models of small dwellings explored in the exhibition. This hut can be viewed from above by the visitor on ascending an external stair to a top floor gallery where drawings (all refreshingly and appropriately hand-drawn), images and a video of the hut’s construction are also shown, highlighting the process and people involved.

The overall exhibition display is unified through a series of simple little timber-boarded garden shed sized “huts” along the length of the gallery, all not quite facing but subtly angled to each other. Inside each, images, models, text and key drawings of each of the projects are exquisitely combined and displayed. Aside from each of the projects’ obvious correlations of scale, materiality, and their wilderness settings (the temporary Tokyo rooftop location of Hanem Hut notwithstanding), what compellingly underlies them all is the idea of a simple essence of inhabitation, very much in the Heidegger sense: what it is to dwell and to be.

This essence is further underlined by the simple but beautifully crafted Hanem Hut in the courtyard, described as “a condensed version of Nakamura’s own hut-home”. It is fully kitted out with fittings, furniture and utensils – everything seemingly selected for its essential timeless elegance and necessity: one gets the feeling that if something were removed it would be missed. The juxtaposition of this incongruous object on a concrete rooftop with the panorama of the metropolis lying beyond, brings to mind David Kohn’s “A Room for London” constructed on the roof of the Hayward Gallery last year. Here though, whilst still playful, there is no extraneous metaphorical baggage or artifice – it is just the thing in and of itself.

Perhaps regrettably, this hut structure has not been inhabited during the exhibition in the way that “A Room for London” has. But it still invites us to imagine, in the spirit of a story by Junichiro Tanazaki, what it would be like at dusk to enjoy the sensual anticipation of coffee brewing upon the wood-burning stove under the gentle glow from the single light source, whilst contemplating the shadow play across the untreated timber surfaces of the interior. Both stove and adjustable wall light, designed by Nakamura, are simple and robust, looking like they would welcome the patina of use, embodying a sense of poetic pragmatism that runs through this and all the other works of the exhibition.

Overall this is a delightful and engaging show, stimulating both cerebrally and viscerally – and with all that freshly sawn timber, it even smells good!

– Jef Smith, London

Come on-a My Hut!
17 April - 22 June, 2013
TOTO GALLERY·MA
TOTO Nogizaka Building 3F
1-24-3, Minami-Aoyama
Minato-ku, Tokyo
107-0062 JAPAN

 

  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

Advertisement

RECENT POSTS

more

Recent Magazines

25 Apr 2016

Magazine No. 43
Athens

  • essay

    From the Bottom and the Top

    Powering Athens through collectivity and informal initiatives by Cristina Ampatzidou

  • photo essay

    Nowhere Now Here

    A photo essay by Yiorgis Yerolymbos

  • Essay

    Back to the Garden

    Athens and opportunities for new urban strategies by Aristide Antonas

  • Interview

    Point Supreme

    An interview by Ellie Stathaki

>

03 Mar 2016

Magazine No. 42
Walk the Line

  • Essay

    The Line Connects

    An essay on drawing and architectural education by Wes Jones

  • Essay

    Drawing Attention

    Phineas Harper sketches out new narrative paths with pencil power

  • Essay

    Gotham

    Elvia Wilk on a city of shadows as architectural fiction

  • Interview

    The (Not So) Fine Line

    A conversation thread between Sophie Lovell and architecture cartoonist Klaus

>

28 Jan 2016

Magazine No. 41
Zvi Hecker

  • essay

    Space Packers

    Zvi Hecker’s career-defining partnership with Eldar Sharon and Alfred Neumann by Rafi Segal

  • Interview

    Essentially I am a Medieval Architect

    An interview with Zvi Hecker by Vladimir Belogolovsky

  • viewpoint

    The Technion Affair

    Breaking and entering in the name of architectural integrity by Zvi Hecker

  • Photo Essay

    Revisiting Yesterday’s Future

    A photo essay by Gili Merin

>

17 Dec 2015

Magazine No. 40
Iceland

  • Viewpoint

    Wish You Were Here

    Arna Mathiesen asks: Refinancing Iceland with tourism – but at what cost?

  • Photo Essay

    Spaces Create Bodies, Bodies Create Space

    An essay by Ólafur Elíasson

  • Focus

    Icelandic Domestic

    Focus on post-independence houses by George Kafka

  • Essay

    The Harp That Sang

    The saga of Reykjavík's Concert Hall by Sophie Lovell & Fiona Shipwright

>

more

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAILING LIST Close

Uncube is brandnew and wants to look good.
For best performance please update your browser.
Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 (or higher), Safari, Chrome, Opera

×